Archive for February, 2010

Separation in Academic Contexts

Almost two years ago, we kicked around the issue of practicing separation in academic contexts and put together the following statement regarding it:

DBTS is committed to perpetuating and practicing biblical separatism to guard the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that there must be a clear line of distinction between those who embrace the gospel and those who deny it. Granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who deny fundamental doctrines of the faith is contrary to the Scriptures, harmful to the church, and dishonoring to God. We believe that we can, therefore, extend Christian recognition and fellowship only to those who hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We further believe that compromising the gospel through fellowship with unbelief is a matter of such serious disobedience that faithfulness to the gospel requires separation from those who practice it.

Since the local church is the pillar and support of the truth, guarding the gospel through biblical separation is primarily at the level of relationships between churches, ministries that serve churches, and those who are recognized as ministers among the churches. Separation is always gospel-related and practiced whenever issues of creed or conduct call into question a church, ministry, or minister’s trust in or faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Local churches should exercise great caution in regard to their cooperation and fellowship so that they do not directly or indirectly participate with those who deny or compromise the gospel.

As an academic institution designed for assisting local churches in training pastors, missionaries, and educators, DBTS is committed to carefully balancing our separatist commitments with the task of providing a thorough education. A seminary education will involve a student in research that includes a wide range of scholars from diverse theological and ecclesiastical backgrounds. Critical exposure to influential works is a very important element of an excellent education. Because interaction in an academic setting is not an ecclesiastical relationship, we do not believe that using works by non-evangelicals and non-separatists violates our commitment to ecclesiastical separation. On this point, we believe that we stand precisely where most separatist institutions have always stood.

The issue of academic lectures and presentations is a more difficult one for separatists. Using a book for a class involves no personal relationship; bringing its author in for a lecture series does. DBTS has exercised some latitude on this matter, based on the principle that an academic context and purpose is different from an ecclesiastical context and purpose. Inviting an acknowledged expert to lecture in an academic setting on a specific subject inherently narrows the relationship and does not qualify as a complete endorsement of the lecturer’s other beliefs and practices. The invitation should be evaluated on the basis of the task at hand, and, as with all choices regarding the use of educational resources, wisdom and discernment must be carefully exercised.

Disagreement over the application of separatist principles has been no small problem for fundamentalists and fundamentalist institutions, and this has been especially true regarding our academic institutions. Some separatist schools have granted more room on these matters than we feel at liberty to take, while others have felt less liberty than we do. While we share mutual commitment to separatist principles, universal agreement on applications seems unachievable. We desire to teach and model a biblical humility that will always be open to the counsel of those who care about us, will extend grace toward those who apply things differently than we would, and will graciously challenge our friends if we become concerned about their decisions.

We are grateful for our heritage as separatists and remain committed to the practice and perpetuation of biblical separatism. We, by God’s grace, will never fail to stand for the gospel and against apostasy and compromise with it. May God be glorified by raising men up who will stand firmly on the Scriptures in the face of the new challenges of the twenty-first century!

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Seeking Worldly Approval or Not Giving Needless Offense?

Came across this in an article expressing concern over not wanting to be called a Fundamentalist:

“I am certainly not defending the name ‘Fundamental’.  We could rename faithfulness to Christ something else, but if we did, in a short time, its new name would develop the same ‘stink’ with the world as the old name. Those wishing to be thought well of by the world would then seek to avoid identification to the new term also.”

Let me begin with stating some agreement—believers are never to seek to gain the approval of the world. Period.

I think, though, that there is more to this discussion than this assessment takes into consideration. It assumes, for instance, that the only reason one might object to being called a fundamentalist is because of what the world thinks. While that certainly might be a factor, it is also true that one might not want to be called a fundamentalist because of what that label connotes to other believers. IOW, a person might not care at all what non-believers think, but still downplay or reject the label fundamentalist because it gives the impression that you don’t think Greek should be taught to theology majors or that Isaiah is a built in testimony to the KJV. If fundamentalist as popularly used among believers includes such views, then someone who is concerned about biblical fidelity may, out of good conscience, not want to be identified with that label. Not saying I agree with that call, but am saying that I won’t assume that it means bowing to worldly pressure.

Also, the fact that words mean things in context should be factored into this discussion. Fundamentalist meant something very clear in the early and mid 20th century, but in our day that word has picked up nuances and associations which make its meaning less clear. Desiring a more accurate name for one’s beliefs and commitments is not necessarily a capitulation to worldly desires. It may, in fact, reflect a desire for biblical and gospel fidelity. A man-made label, Fundamentalist, can’t be so important to us that we will give needless offense to those who don’t have insider knowledge of modern church history. The gap between the historical reality of what a fundamentalist was and what the average unbeliever will think when he hears “fundamentalist” today should make us think twice about using it carelessly. I personally have taken the stance that fundamentalist is an insider term for our church, not the public label by which we identify ourselves to an unbelieving world.

I am very staunchly anti-new evangelicalism and positively pro-separatism, but I find myself less and less comfortable with the category of fundamentalism precisely because so many strange birds have come to rest in that nest. It no longer means what it used to mean. I will never expect the world to understand what we are as a church, but I see no point in giving either believers or unbelievers the wrong impression about us.

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If It Was Good Enough for J. Frank…

My blogging has been way down simply owing to other concerns, but sometimes you read something that stirs the juices or fires up the keyboard. Well, a church member sent me a link that accomplished both. This post is the third based in the I-can’t-believe-what-I-read world of KJVOnlyism. I imagine that the most extreme examples should be expected to come from the places which are trying to establish their niche in the KJVO educational marketplace, and that’s true here as well as the two earlier, related posts (here and here). The amazement begins when you click the link to a web page with this banner, “why Grace Baptist College does not teach Greek…” and turns to amusement when you find that this college promotes itself as the “School for Thinking Fundamentalists.” Seriously?

Why would a college training theology majors not teach Greek or Hebrew? The ultimate, and obvious answer given the context, is that the King James Bible “is God’s perfect, preserved Word for the English speaking world.” Now, to be fair, many make that same claim without drawing this conclusion, so what’s the rationale (I use that term loosely) here? Apparently, J. Frank Norris had the “conviction…that it was not only unnecessary but actually harmful to teach Greek if the goal was to train soul-winning, church-building, theologically orthodox, Bible-preaching and teaching pastors and missionaries rather than Bible correctors and textual critics.” This, in spite of the fact that Norris “had been taught Greek in his theological training” and yet emerged able to do all of these things. The college’s founder also discovered that his “extensive tutelage” in Greek (while a student at Hyles-Anderson no less) didn’t do anything to help him preach better.

The problem is deeper than ministerial pragmatics. Teaching Greek and Hebrew, it turns out, inevitably means you embrace textual criticism—“Why would schools training the next generation of fundamental Baptist preachers who claim to believe that they are ‘King James Only’ be content to continue to advance the false theory that Greek and Hebrew training is not part of the textual criticism school?”  And embracing that means you find yourself running with the likes of B. B. Warfield! Oh my.

So here’s the heartbeat of the “School for Thinking Fundamentalists”—“We are passionate in our desire to awaken those who are not aware of the hazards in Greek study.  We believe Greek study has been and will continue to be the downfall of Protestant Fundamentalism.  Therefore, we boldly stand with true Baptist history in providing this generation with a Bible college that TEACHES THE WHOLE ENGLISH BIBLE.”

Whatever else it may be, thinking isn’t the word that I would use for it.

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Killer Karaoke

If you think the fights in churches over music are bad (or are favorable toward using soundtracks to enhance worship), read this.

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Self-Applying Commentary?

As I was studying for a message on Colossians 2:1-5, I found a very helpful comment on verse 4:

“from long experience [Paul] knows that a work of grace is followed by an attack from the enemy, and that one regular form this attack may take is the clever plausibility of teaching near enough to the truth to be apparently respectable and far enough away from it to be devastating in its effects on individuals and congregations”

I found it ironic that this comes from the pen of N. T. Wright in his commentary on Colossians & Philemon in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series (pp. 95-96). I don’t fancy myself a scholar on Wright’s views of justification, but it sure seems to me that his views are “near enough to the truth to be apparently respectable and far enough away from it to be devastating in its effects on individuals and congregations.”

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